VICTORIA — An emaciated cougar that tried to enter a West Kootenay home through a window attacked and injured a conservation officer this week in British Columbia.
Deputy chief Chris Doyle of the Conservation Officer Service said Tuesday it's the first time in his two-decade career that an officer has been injured by a cougar.
"Fortunately, it's very unusual but it's a good reminder of the risks officers face when they're responding to various human-wildlife conflicts," he said in a conference call.
The officer is based in Castlegar and first responded to a call of a pickup truck that hit an adult cougar near the Village of Salmo shortly before 8 p.m. Tuesday. The cougar was severely injured and the officer had to euthanize the animal before receiving calls of another cougar trying to enter a home 10 kilometres away.
Doyle said while investigating the incident at the home, the officer was attacked by the emaciated juvenile cougar without provocation and had to kill it to stop the attack.
While the officer's injuries were minor, Tobe Sprado, acting officer in charge for the Kootenay region, said the incident is among a spike in cougar conflicts in the region. In and around Salmo, there has been 14 complaints since April, but 10 of them were filed this month, Sprado said.
Snowy conditions could be partly to blame for the increase.
"It makes it difficult for predators, such as cougars, to prey efficiently on their normal prey species, so what happens is that they start coming into communities looking for an easier food source, generally pets, dogs and cats," Sprado said.
Although the incident is under investigation, Sprado said it's possible the cougar was separated from its family, making hunting even more difficult for the animal.
Despite the rise in cougar conflicts, Doyle said the Conservation Officer Service's advice to the public is unchanged. They recommend people keep pets indoors, especially at night, and use electric fencing to protect livestock.
If someone encounters a cougar, Doyle said they should not turn their back to the animal or run away.
"In the very rare event that a cougar does attack, the advice is to fight back and try to deter the attack," he said.